Michael waterskiing with two helpers by his side

Getting Injured as a Teenager


“The choices we make have consequences,”  this is a cautionary warning that adults express to adolescents growing up. The intent is to understand the potential repercussions before you make certain choices.  What happens when life doesn’t give us a choice and we are still faced with the consequences? Finding the answers to this question is something that will challenge every person who suffers a spinal cord injury (SCI). 

There is no way to sugarcoat the future. Living with SCI is going to be a challenging existence as much mentally as it is physically. Initially, the perception of a spinal cord injury is all about all the things that are no longer possible. How can you lead a life filled with purpose and joy on four wheels?  That was the question I had to answer more than 35 years ago when I broke my neck playing ice hockey and became a C5 quadriplegic. What I was able to discover was that opportunity still exists, despite having so much of life beyond my reach. 

Since my injury I graduated from high school, went on to college, and received a mathematics teaching degree. I have worked for more than 20 years as a high school mathematics teacher and am enjoying life in Florida married to my beautiful wife Arlene. I enjoy exercising, traveling, Las Vegas being my favorite destination, and so many other aspects that make life worth living. Help is a necessity of life for a person living with SCI and I could never have accomplished any of these things without assistance. There is not a person alive that does not need help along the way whether you are standing on two feet or sitting in a chair.

Last year I was lucky enough to participate in the Leaders Program offered by BACKBONES. Through my association with BACKBONES, I was able to interact with Reveca Torres (Executive Director) and Monica Quimby (Leaders Program Coordinator), as well as a number of other individuals with SCI around the country. Since that experience I have been able to participate in some political activism for the spinal cord community, I went water skiing for the first time, and I am completing the finishing touches on my first book. In large part, these opportunities were created by my participation in the Leaders Program. 

When BACKBONES posted a position for Youth Program Coordinator to develop a similar program for teenagers with spinal cord injuries I was instantly motivated to apply and was hired!  This opportunity will allow me to facilitate guest speakers and activities to assist teenagers as they discover a future in line with their interests and personality. The objective of this program is to create opportunities for camaraderie, skill-building and entertainment for all that participate.

I was injured at the age of 18 and there were so many more questions than there were answers at that point in my life.  I would like to share with others that there are still so many opportunities after a spinal cord injury. 

If you are a teenager with SCI/D or know of someone, I invite you to participate in this summer program to learn new skills, meet others with SCI, and HAVE FUN! Please complete the application by March 30th, 2022.

Written by Michael Maruzzi – Youth Summer Program Coordinator